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PV EXPO/SYSTEM 2017 Show Report: Japanese Market Sees a Constant Demand for Residential Solar Power Systems and a Wave of Integrated Solutions

published: 2017-03-10 18:18

At PV EXPO/SYSTEM 2017, exhibits from Japanese manufacturers well embodied the shift in Japan’s PV market. The demand for residential solar power systems is to witness a stability and Zero-Energy House (ZEH), powered by solar PV systems, is also projected to see high demand. In other words, residential solar power applications will be the next highlight in Japan.

ZEH represents the completion of energy generation, power saving, and energy storage. ZEH plans to create eco-friendly living environments with green architecture technology and the introduction of energy efficient home appliance powered by electricity from solar systems and wind farms. The power use is then managed by HEMS and an energy storage system. Products and technologies shown at PV EXPO/SYSTEM and Smart Grid EXPO pretty much embodied the future dynamic of Japan’s solar market.

After being acquired by Foxconn, Sharp partook in PV EXPO/SYSTEM with a brand new look with a series of exhibits once exposed in 2016, including BLACKSOLAR modules and a CITY CHARGE solar street light with a multi-device charging platform. The staff at Energy System Business Division introduced to EnergyTrend the retrofit of CITY CHARGE, a portable electrical equipment in a triangular shape with wheels at the bottom, that is currently still under development. Next to the device were chairs integrated with triple-junction compound solar cells and lithium batteries.  Those cells on the back of the chairs, renovated with JAXA’s satellite technology, hit a conversion efficiency of 30%. Considering the weight and price, those chairs are not available in the market but only deployed in Ueno Park by Tokyo Convention and Visitor Bureau and Starbucks.

BLACKSOLAR is the core development of Sharp’s solar sector. Not only did it launch a high efficient module with 19.6% conversion efficiency, it also released integrated solutions with ZEH as the foundation plan, such as power saving home appliance featuring both solar generating and storage systems, and cloud storage battery system. As Sharp did not showcase BLACKSOLAR’s prototype cell, its current development stayed unknown. However, a variety of exhibits Sharp brought to the exposition reflected the demand in Japan’s market and Sharp’s effort on the business shift.

Next to Sharp’s booth, Panasonic presented its HIT® series module as the main exhibit. The company used a closed-up PV cell structure map to explain the differences between a HIT® module and a crystallized silicon PV module, and launched multiple types of  HIT® modules, including a high strength module (with a snow and wind resistance of 6000 Pa), a roof integrated module,  an ultra large type, and a more efficient rooftop module. Since HIT/HJT technology was widely and deeply discussed at PV EXPO/SYSTEM 2017, as a major developer, Panasonic’s ambition in HIT technology development, possibly the next big hit, appeared to be even more obvious.

In terms of integrated solutions, Panasonic invested in residential and commercial/utility-scale solar applications; and launched diverse energy storage systems for different purposes. Its new smart HEMS solution AiSEG2 officially hit the market with a more competitive price. AiSEG2, integrated with a monitoring system, is able to tune the indoor air conditioning system based on temperature and humidity data given from its receiver. Panasonic also displayed its energy storage system, with a density of 5.5kWh in a capacity one third smaller than its equivalents, especially tailored for home use.  

What truly outshined at Panasonic’s booth was Prius PHV products it co-developed with Toyota, a first ever electric car powered by a solar power system. With Panasonic’s HIT® cells embedded at the top (180W as the highest power input), Prius PHV can hit an average of 2.9 km, 6.1km at most, after 24 hours of charging.

Mitsubishi did not come to Smart Grid EXPO with new module products; instead, it won attendees’ attention with its integrated HEMS solution, an upgrade of ENEDIA (smart home solution) as the highlight. In addition, the company showed its versatility launching power management solutions for commercial and utility-scale power use.

Compared with ENEDIA, the upgrade version SMART V2H is even more fascinating. Serving as a ‘portable battery’, SMART V2H is the first module product able to connect to multiple types of equipment including power grids, solar PV panels, and EVs. On one hand, it’s a battery for PV systems; on the other, it charges electric vehicles and can also transmit power from their automotive batteries to houses, reflecting a more flexible electricity use.

Despite the fact that Kyocera’s absence was indeed a pity, another giant Toshiba amazed attendees with several PV cell modules for a multitude of purposes, including residential, commercial, and utility-scale use, and the Premium Model, a brand new S-Series module. The S-Series features mono-Si IBC cell technology and a range of different specifications with different conversion efficiencies from 20.3% to 21.2% and power ratings from 253W to 345W. The surface of S-Series module is processed with AR (anti-reflective) coating. With a back contact and heat resistant design, the PV cell module still works fairly smoothly under dim light or heat stress, improving the cell’s electric power efficiency.

Aside from ZEH and HEMS solutions, Toshiba also demonstrated its thin roof integrated solar panels, O&M services and monitoring systems for commercial and utility-scale solar applications, meeting a wider range of demand.

Japan’s solar giants grabbed most attention as always, while some niche companies also impressed the public with their specific products and solutions. Also joining in the manufacturing of overlapped-cells like the majority, CIC Choshu displayed its overlapped-cell module with up to 20.3% conversion efficiency and 345W power rating. As for CIC’s HJT development, it presented a rear emitter G-Series HJT module, of which the gap between electrodes narrows, reducing power loss during transmission and enabling a 60-cell module to achieve an efficiency of 20.6% with 338W power rating.

CIC also showcased its roof integrated solar modules catering to residential PV system users. What is more, CIC launched a holistic solar recycling plan, what few companies showed at the exposition. Yet, the demand for solar system recycling is very likely to grow. 

Showcasing at the new BIPV & ZEH EXPO, KANEKA displayed its effort in these two applications with its impressive, noteworthy products and solutions. Soltile X, the high energy efficient solar cell series coming in a tile shape, is expected to be available in thin-film and c-si types this spring. The series, neat and light with anti-snow designs, can be all installed on the roof of a single house and generate more electricity.

Another more eye-catching exhibit of KANEKA is a semitransparent thin-film, of which the appearance can easily delude human eyes and be seen as merely a building material. In fact, with a decent transmittance, those thin-film cells are indeed building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) and can thus be used for construction. Under the limelight, KANEKA’s See-Through thin film solar cells caught great attention; on the other hand, its residential solutions for power management and more mature, long-developed HJT modules became supports at this year’s display.

(Reported by Rhea Tsao, chief editor of EnergyTrend; translated by Eva Huang, translator/editor at TrendForce.)

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